That’s the view of Dr Ghazala Mir, above, of Leeds University’s Institute of Health Sciences.
She believes that therapists who have traditionally shied away from involving religion – and often regard it as the cause of mental illnesses – are wrong.
According to the BBC, Mir said:
We know that in Muslim populations people can get quicker results from faith-sensitive therapies that have been tested elsewhere in the world. They tend to use religion as a coping resource more than people in other religious groups.
Mir has helped to create a new treatment, based on an existing form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) called behavioural activation. Following a successful pilot involving 20 patients, it is being provided by the National Health Service via a mental health charity in Leeds.
Patients on the course are asked if faith was part of their life when they were well.
Those who stopped their religious practice because of depression are re-introduced slowly using a self-help booklet, which highlights passages from the Koran that illustrate “even people with strong faith” can become depressed and that it does not mean God is displeased.
Mir claims that Muslims are under-referred for mental health treatment.
Not only is there under-referral but the outcomes for people who do actually get referred are not as good as the general population.
NHS data assessing people seeking psychological help found depression can be more chronic among British Muslims, who tend to have lower rates of improvement.
The NHS has a statutory duty to provide “culturally appropriate” care for its patients, but Mir claims it often struggles to do so.
One patient, referred to as Samia, said her treatment with a traditional therapist “felt like half a journey”, but that when she started to use the new booklet her life began to change.
There are some teachings in here that help me reflect that the Koran actually acknowledges there is depression, there is grief, there is hardship upon you. God is actually giving me those tools. So it really strengthened my Iman, which is my faith.
I’m happy that I can live my life with my religion and that I’ve got the support of teachings from the Koran.
Richard Garland runs the team at the Touchstone Mental Health Charity which is providing the treatment to some of its Muslim clients.
He says several therapists left the initial trial of the treatment for a number of reasons.
Some were worried about imposing religion on clients, others said they did not know enough about Islam, were resistant to the idea of using religion in therapy at all, or felt religion was not a helpful framework for treating depression.
However, Garland claims this type of religiously-centred treatment can help.
What has been produced here is a type of therapy that takes full account of people’s faith, this particular faith, and links it to people’s value framework. So it’s a very practical application of someone’s belief system.
The people behind the treatment say they hope it can be rolled out across the country and be extended to other faith groups.